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5.0 out of 5 starsUtterly Gorgeous
Reviewed in the United States on May 5, 2018
Indridason is a genius at showing us that the past and the present are one thing. Companions, moving side by side. But, too often, when we reach out our hand to our past, our "us", our only constant companion, we find emptiness, air, nothingness, so we proceed, limping on in perceived lonliness, believing that we have been abandoned by the only one who will ever understand us, forgive us. Only when our companion, who has been there all along, but mournfully, misunderstood, at too much of a distance, finally senses our outstretched hand, and again, or for the first time, or for the last time, takes our hand in his, can we again or for the first time move truly forward. I have just finished reading every book in Indridason's transcendent Erlander Series. I have never experienced a more moving, satisfyingly, earned, timelessly essential and fundamentally human page of written words than the sentences that conclude "Strange Shores". I am so filled with, well, like feels like love, like an essential, glowing gratitude, for the author, the poet, the explorer, the companion who took my hand when I read the first of his words of the thousands to come, and he guided me through all of these pages and stories and lives and deaths and everythings in between. A master artist poet entertainer believer guide companion and deliverer, I thank you.
After devouring the Stieg Larsson trilogy, I went on a search for other Scandinavian authors and have settled on Karin Fossum and Arnaldur Indridason as my two favorites. While I usually read reviews before buying books, even by authors with whom I'm familiar, I've abandoned that step with Fossum and Indridason. No matter what they publish, I automatically buy it. "Strange Shores" is the seventh Indridason book I've read. All have rated four stars or higher.
This one, though, is quite different from all the others. I'm giving it a weak four stars, as I didn't find it so compelling. Or perhaps what I should say is that this book includes none of the interaction of the protagonist, Erlendur, with his police sidekicks and family. Instead, it's set entirely in the rural (icy, dreary?) parts of Iceland, away from Reykjavik, and Erlendur handles the case entirely on his own. In fact, he isn't even on duty, but is pursuing information related to his early life that just happens to coincide with a long-ago, cold-case murder in the area.
Woven throughout the Indridason oeuvre (at least up to this point), is Erlendur's guilt that he contributed to the death of his younger brother decades ago - by encouraging him to go out into a storm with their father to round up sheep; they unexpectedly experience a blizzard during which Erlendur and his father were saved, but the brother never found. I'm wondering if this event entails an autobiographical aspect, as the author continues to refer to it in all his novels. Unfortunately even this book doesn't bring closure to the missing-brother mystery, but I hope Indridason now has that event out of his system, so he can return to Reykjavik and resume interacting with the other characters readers have come to know and enjoy.
Although "Strange Shores" is my least favorite Indridason book to date, it still is well worth the read. The characters introduced are interesting and quirky (who wouldn't be quirky living in the wilds and frigidity of rural Iceland?), and the plot has viable twists.
5.0 out of 5 starsThe master of Scandinavian mysteries
Reviewed in the United States on October 13, 2014
I have read all of Indridason's novels and was waiting none too patiently to read this latest installation of Inspector Erlendur's saga. I was glad to have waited because this latest instalment is a finely crafted mystery and worthy continuation of his previous books.
The storyline has been brought up in other reviews but I want to add that to read Indridason's excellent novels of Iceland is to fall under the spell of Iceland itself. When one reads his novels, sound fades away and one falls into the wild environment, the icy cold of winter landscapes, the volcanic rocks and volcanos, which seem to come out in his characters who can be just as fragile, strong, icily cool, and explosively volcanic in their emotions and crimes. I highly recommend this series!
4.0 out of 5 starsErlendur retraces his steps to find his past
Reviewed in the United States on May 1, 2016
Erlendur has a lot in common with Mankell's Wallander esides being Swedish. He is as taciturn and solitary and relentless as Wallander, but his is a raw kind of darkness. He does not drink, he smokes, and is more prone to physical violence, he sometimes has outbursts of rage which are not common in Wallander. At the back of his mind there is always this unforgotten, undying grief in his life. In his private life he is as emotionally stunted as Wallander. As with the Mankell books, the author attempts to give the book some historical or social resonance, which is an interesting way to learn about Iceland and Icelanders themselves. By the time you get to this book, if you are folowing the series in order, you already know that Erlendur has been missing. In this book you learn what he has been up to. I think this is one of the most satisfying of the Erlendur books, not because the mystery is specially convoluted or surprising,,, there are some that have worked better in the series, like "The Draining lake" or "The silence of the Grave", but because it is the one where you really get close to Erlendur, and see him really developed as a character. This is Nordic Noire, so do not expect a page-turner, but the fact is that pages Do get turned!
The last of the Inspector Erlendur crime novels. The death which has haunted Erlendur since childhood and through the series, the mysterious disappearance of his younger brother in a snow storm, is resolved. Erlendur retreating to his family home, now empty and derelict, recalls his past and investigates the mystery of a woman who disappeared in the same storm that took his brother. Her tragic story slowly emerges through the novel: love, betrayal and murder. As always with Indridason her story is elegantly and persuasively plotted, it is also heartbreaking. If there is an argument to be made for genre as literary fiction then this novel would clinch it. Sad that my journey with Erlendur is over, but what an experience.
3.0 out of 5 starsA tragedy. A real twist from the crime investigation.Very depressing and leaning on spiritualism.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 21, 2020
I’m not sure how to begin this review. This book is not at all what I expected. Spoiler Alert! I‘ll warn you further Down this review when I’m really about to spoil it all. I was hooked by the first two books of the series, Jar City and Silence of the Grave. I have always loved the gruesome quality of crime investigation, and the first two books, and to be fair a few following those, deliver that quite well. I know that Erlendur’s past has always been a backdrop of the story, but had never thought it would take such a dark turn. This book then becomes something of a Han Christian Andersen tragic tale, mingled with some minor criminal investigation, with a large bite of spirituality. The book’s tone is overall very haunting in almost a supernatural way. I wonder if the author was losing someone at the point he was writing this. It is very deep and so dark. It’s not the kind of macabre or chilling quality you find in typical thrillers (say, his first two books), but the soul-searching kind that gnaws into you. It’s so dark, so depressing, so melancholy that I felt as if I had to stop at certain points. Typically, in crime novels, the consequences are only discussed in passing, and the focus is rather on the science, which is the style I like. I would start to lose interest once it starts meandering into the realm of moral and spirituality too much. Be absolutely prepared and make sure you’re in a fairly happy state of mind. Like have just had a baby, or just got married, in a blossoming relationship, or doing jolly well in your career etc. Even then, you might need a does of Sophie Kinsellar afterwards. This feels like a depressed version of the Hunger Game ending, written by Arthur Conan Doyle after he’s lost his sons and was chasing after the fairies. I’ve read a lot of dark and depressing books, but God this one might just top it. DO NOT READ IF YOU’RE DNOT IN THE RIGHT STATE OF MIND!
Okay, this the part where i just one to discuss the book with those who have read it or dont care if I spoiled it all. You have been warned. I don’t really get the dark turn in the series. Of course the brother’s disappearance has been looming throughout, but needn’t be so pivotal. I have to say Erlendur’s personal life really ruins it for me in this series. Why can‘t the author just leave it out? Would have been much more fun without that bloody tragedy in his childhood. Then Erlendur has to go and die on the moors as well. Then all the spectral encounters. It feels like I’m reading spiritual fairy tales written by a demented Ruyard Kipling or something, but ten times worse. I feel certain something must have happened in the author’s life between his previous books and this. The abrupt change of tone feels too personal. Maybe he is trying to find consolation himself. After reading this, I don’t feel the usual thrill of adrenaline mingled with the kind of excitement you get from horror films or thrillers, just this heavy and dull melancholy, like you just been visited by a dementor and he has sucked all the air out of you. The end might suggest he is now reunited with his brother in heaven, but that still doesn’t atone for the fact that he dies and leaves behind all the people who really care about him, not least his two struggling children. Eva Lind needs him and I can only speculate the worst for that character’s fate, after the death of her father. Everything in this man’s life is so tragic I wonder if the author should maybe get himself checked up for depression. I also don’t enjoy the style of this particular book. The intermittent spectral visions that could be a dream or maybe the author has really gone off the rail into the spiritual world there. So, correct me if I’m wrong, his dead brother comes to see him with the dead traveller and they somehow induce him to go up To the mountain for, what exactly? Lure him to his death so they could all be united? Doesn’t make any bloody sense. Not a great closure for a series with such a promising start.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 25, 2016
This is advertised as the last book in the Erlendur saga – sad news indeed for devoted fans of the series, of whom I am one. But for any fans-to be I suggest you do not start here. The early books have frequently referenced a tragedy in Erlendur’s childhood when he (& his father) narrowly survived a white-out: but his younger brother, Bergur, did not. This has contributed to making Indridason’s brand of Nordic Noir particularly noir. Here he sets out to see whether Erlendur (& thus we) can “achieve closure” on this seminal event. However it must have been clear from the start that Bergur’s death on its own could not sustain a whole novel. So he deftly weaves in another apparently accidental death in another blizzard in an adjacent part of Iceland’s dour & unforgiving landscape. And to this he adds other elements including a tale of thwarted love & a bit of the supernatural (communicated to Erlendur in a series of troubling dreams involving the mysterious “traveller”). The pace is somewhat slow: but my interest never strayed. I was sorry to find that there was no place in the narrative for Erlendur’s own love interest (Valgerdur) & his police colleagues Elinborg & Sigurdur Oli: but Erlendur was always a bit of a lone wolf, as was his inspiration Marion Briem who here rates only a brief name check. However there are downsides to the structure adopted: because Erlendur has taken leave from his professional duties to scour the hills of his childhood & thus his searches are never going to lead to any prosecution. To compensate for this inherent lack of tension Erlendur is portrayed as particularly clumsy in his conduct towards those he suspects may have information he wants: to the point that one witness is so provoked (unconvincingly I thought) that he presents a shotgun to our hero’s throat Oh – and Erlendur goes in for a bit of grave robbing – at night, by the light of a gas lamp – not once but twice, each time undetected by a mortal soul. So there is a deal of tension after all. And in the end for me Indridason is, as always, worth all 5 stars: even though this is not a typical Erlendur tale . I can’t leave this review without saying a word of praise for the translation. I have elsewhere acknowledged that I am not, of course, in any position to know how faithful the translator may have been to the original text. But unlike the other translation from Icelandic to English on which I have commented, this narrative flows beautifully.
5.0 out of 5 starsAbsolutely brilliant (but read the other novels first)
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 29, 2013
This was another simply brilliant novel by Arnaldur Indridason. Erlendur, the protagonist in all the other Reykjavik series books, returns to the moors of Iceland to investigate a 60 year old case, and search for his brother Beggi out on the moors, an ongoing side event in the previous novels. The descriptions by Indridason are once again fantastic, and like all Icelandic authors I have read, Indridason once again manages to create a tale full of melancholy and mystery. This is an absolutely brilliant novel, easily his best yet, but you need to read the other novels in the series first to truly appreciate this gem.
This book is set at the same time as both outrage and dark skies. Erlendur has gone out east to the old family homestead and Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg are both back in Reykjavik working on their own respective cases. Whilst seeking answers to his brother's disappearance Erlendur finds himself investigating another old missing persons case. Overall the storyline is good well written and carefully thought out. Just one or two things leave you feeling that parts of the storyline are a bit contrived. I'm thinking foxes here. All 3 police characters seem to have reached a turning point in their respective cases so the big question is not who dunnit but what happens next.......